Kathy Leach - ( Mother )
I always thought I did a pretty swell job at hiding the yucky things about my relationship; it was like a dark secret I chose to keep to myself.
This was partly due to feelings of shame and embarrassment, a ton of denial, and the thought that the truth would hurt and disappoint my loved ones.
Turns out though, this unhealthy relationship had changed who I was as a person– and you can’t hide that or keep it a secret. When your light dims everyone can tell, especially those closest to you like your mum.
My mum you see, she’s my role model. She's that person in life I look up to, the first person I call when I’m in need, my number one supporter, and the person who comes to mind when I think about unconditional, wholehearted love. I count myself pretty darn lucky to be guided in life by such a strong, loving, compassionate, kind woman with values of gold and a heart to match. I strive to uphold these values instilled in me and will count myself lucky If I stand to represent any of what she is. My mum is the one who knows me, who believes in me, the one whom never left, and the one whom will forever love me, and I her.
I’ve always felt this way about my mum–I felt it before and during an unhealthy relationship. And I feel it more than ever now. But those hard times in an unhealthy relationship affected how I showed love, how I accepted love, and how I thought, acted and behaved. While I’m now at a place in my life where my relationships are strong, my values are solid and my connections are deep, sometimes I feel shame and guilt about my past.
I'm using this opportunity to apologise to my mum for the hurt, to thank her for the love, and acknowledge her for what she is– my hero.
Happy Mother’s Day mum. I value you, I appreciate you, I love you.
Can you tell us about the journey with your daughter as she was involved in an unhealthy relationship?
Thank goodness we got our Livvy back!
It was a horrible journey, as a parent I was powerless and nothing I said or did could change the situation. The more I pushed, she withdrew and didn’t tell me anything. I was always terrified she would choose to move in with him away from us and isolate herself.
How did you identify that your daughter was in an unhealthy relationship, what were some of the warning signs that you noticed?
We live in a small community with a large extended family, we were often informed by others of his behaviour towards our daughter, we were also told about his antics whilst he was out drinking. She always forgave him, he controlled her and tried to isolate her from her family and friends he didn’t like. She refused to discuss him with us, she constantly defended him and his actions. She spent more and more time staying at his home. He would never come to our home or have anything to do with us– it wasn’t a normal relationship. She then distanced herself from us during this relationship, we tried not to criticise him because, in doing so, would push her further away. He purposely tried to turn her against us.
What changes did you observe in your daughter?
She had a very low self-esteem – this beautiful, funny darling girl became moody, anxious and depressed.
Luckily she is a bright girl, this relationship could have affected her education. When she first started going out with him she was still at college, she had a lot of time off and he would get her to skip school if he was home.
Could you share with us some of the turning points?
Our lovely girl finally saw the light, she ended it with him and after a couple of false starts they parted. It made it easier for her when she moved to Wellington and out of the community he lived in.
There was a big turning point for Livvy, something clicked and she worked hard to become herself again.
How is the relationship with your daughter today and how did it get to this point?
Our relationship is great, you love your children unconditionally.
When Livvy shared her story with Prepair NZ I was devastated when I read it – I knew about the abusive relationship, but what I didn’t know was how low her self-esteem was. I didn’t realise how unhappy she was and for this I will always feel devastated and GUILTY. I’m her mother, I should have known.
What makes you most proud of your daughter?
Very difficult to put into words – they aren’t enough, I’m in awe of the young lady she is today. Her strength to change the things she could, her humour, kindness and empathy.
I’m very proud of her involvement in Prepair and wanting to help others.
What is your perspective on self-love, and in what ways do you think it supports women's choices and relationships?
My generation knows nothing of self-love. If we talked about self-love others would think you were conceited or “up yourself”. Now that I’m older and wiser I realise it’s a totally different story.
What values are important to you when it comes to love?
With my family love has to be unconditional and needs to be constantly voiced and shown.
What does a healthy relationship look like to you?
If you could share one piece of advice with our readers, what would it be?
You can’t always protect your child from hurt, but always remind them nothing is too big or too embarrassing that they can’t talk to you about. You might not love what they are doing or what they have done, but you love them.
Thank you to Kathy for sharing your perspective with the Prepair NZ community.